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Movie Review: TiMER

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TiMER, a unique blend of chick flick and sci-fi, screened at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Starting out slowly, it picks up speed and depth and suddenly you are immersed in what is going on — and by the time the movie ends, you wonder what's really going to happen. While I loved it, the 'significant other' was bored for about the first 20 minutes, although by the end even he had to say it was not at all a chick flick but a funny, engaging movie.

Is your soul mate pre-determined? What if a clock could count you down to the very moment you meet your soul mate? In this not-quite-real version of Los Angeles, a revolutionary invention called the "timer" actually brings this idea to life. The timer is implanted in the owner's wrist and promises to accurately display the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the owner is to meet his or her soul mate — providing Mr or Ms. Right is wearing one too. It is not easy, nor is it foolproof, as Oona O'Leary (Emma Caulfield) finds out.

Added to the mix are Oona's family members, which include her mom (JoBeth Williams) and step-dad (who met via timer) and her stepsister Steph (Michelle Borth) who has the same birthday and is Oona's physical and temperamental opposite. While family and friends move contentedly through life with predetermined romantic fates, Oona seems alone and not so happy — her timer is blank — while Steph goes through life from one casual encounter to another because her timer has a countdown of about two years, which leads her to have flings without any commitments.

What's curious about this film is that it starts off with Oona being  desperate and that's where it could lose a lot of people early on, but once Oona meets Mikey (John Patrick Amedori) and starts to see him not as a potential timer mate (which he is not: according to him, he's got four months left on his timer, which is actually a fake he uses to meet girls; and something that's barely touched on is that he's 22 and she's almost 30) but is nonetheless attracted to him, things get more interesting. Eventually she finds out that Mikey's timer is a fake and they split up. His justification for the timer was to give himself an even chance with women in the timer-obsessed world (which comes across quite clearly) and that he would never stand a chance to have a solid relationship without it. His fake timer removes the anxiety from any potential meet-up. Oona takes a page from Steph's book and thinks "why not a casual hook-up"? but starts to realize that his company and their relationship are genuinely making her happy.

Writer/director Jac Schaeffer take this film in various directions but doesn't quite circle back well. Oona's younger brother, who is all of 15,  gets his timer before he can even get a learner's permit and it goes off when he meets the housekeeper's daughter who is also 15 and they are supposed to be soul mates for life — at 15? It's funny in the movie but it does require you to suspend your disbelief. Thankfully the two teens are left unmarried and have the chance to go about their lives.

Oona does go off on a long overdue journey to find her dad who she has had no connection with, and it turns out he is the one who dumped the mom because he knew the marriage was going south. Unfortunately none of the women this man has hooked up with have been his timer mate, and he's not in the film long enough for more than a bare-bones explanation nor does he make much of an impact. The larger impact comes from his live-in girlfriend who stays with him because she does love him, alcoholic flaws and all, and has Oona further questioning whether the timer is for her or not.

Emma Caulfield's performance is rich and realistic in putting across the desperation Oona feels in not finding the right man soon enough. Her blank timer means the right guy is either not in her periphery or doesn't have a timer yet and as her anxiety slowly dissipates with Mikey, she no longer worries so much about the timer — to the point of considering having it removed so that she can be with Mikey.

Steph meets a guy she is sure would be perfect for Oona but Oona blows him off and Steph finds herself attracted to him despite the fact that he's timer-free. He's a widower and never had a timer and his comment that his late wife was the "love of his life" has Steph thinking about the purpose of timers. JoBeth Williams does a dandy job as the mom convinced that timers are the only way to find real happiness.

The denouement comes when Steph and Oona decide to remove their timers together and while Steph proceeds, Oona's suddenly goes off — and Mikey, Steph, and Oona all freak out for different reasons. What happens next is pretty ambiguous. Nothing is neatly tied up. 

Looking back on the movie, maybe I don't like the film itself quite as much as I like the performances given by Caulfied, Borth, Williams, and Amedori. They are the centerpiece to the entire story and everyone else is simply on the periphery. Those four roles are the crucial elements and everyone does a great job but Schaeffer's screenplay leaves lots of loose ends and no matter how great an actor you are, if the writing and direction aren't there, there's nothing left to be done.

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